Bandcamp is an incredible source for music nowadays and truly requires the attention of music listeners of all genres. Many rap artists and producers, such as Knxwledge and Ohbliv, have heavily utilized the music outlet to the point where it has become the main (or only) source for their releases. This series aims to highlight talented independent artists who provide quality music to the outlet.
Here are the seven Bandcamp selections for December of 2018. Happy New Years bitches.
The Way Through by Deca
I’ve always had a sweet spot for artists not only spit bars, but produce their own work as well. Deca is one of those artists. Originally from Denver, CO, Deca came up as part of the LIFE Crew- a collective of rappers, graffiti writers, and DJs that were seminal in helping to shape the local scene throughout the 2000’s. He spent some time in Los Angeles before settling in NYC where he released his first fully self-produced 2011 album, The Veil. The Way Through really grabbed my attention. The bars are personal and insightful, and the beats are crispy as fuck, and incredibly soulful. This is really a hidden gem…peep it.
Purchase The Way Through here
Follow Deca here
SANCTUARY by Sleep Sinatra
Sleep Sinatra has become one of my favorite new emcees that I’ve become in tune with in 2018. His full length project, [D] A R K A N G E L, slotted out at #45 on my top 50 end of the year list (which you can check out here). SANCTUARY is simply another demonstration of why Sleep Sinatra needs to stop being slept on (pun intended). It’s produced entirely by notable underground beatmaker, August Fanon. Like title implies, Sleep toys with the idea of finding a place of refuge, or a sense of safety, to deal with his stresses. It’s another solid edition in his catalog. Peep it.
Purchase SANCTUARY here
Follow Sleep Sinatra here
23 by Realname
Realname is an experimental rap artist who hails from Melbourne, Australia. 23 is his debut album…and its a doozy. It’s incredibly bassy and abrasive and radiates raw energy. For such a loud and obnoxious album, there’s surprisingly some very pretty samples used throughout it’s entirety. Props to the producers Teether (he also raps on two of the tracks) and Stoneset for managing to capture this interesting vibe…they produced a majority of the tracks on here. Realname has a good sense of flow and matches the energy of the production, while also managing to have a sense of humor too (definitely gives me Wiki vibes). Peep this one…it’s a slapper.
Purchase 23 here
Follow Realname here
Gather Alone by TheWolvesDen
TheWolvesDen is a Jamaican beatmaker who resides in Baltimore, MD. His latest project, Gather Alone, is quite an emotional journey. The introductory track opens with a message to an old friend of his from high school, someone he used to cherish, and misses still. The rest of the project captures the emotions of seeing that person and the intimacy the relationship once had. Gather Alone also ventures through the emotional spaces he’s experienced over the last two years. The production does an exceptional job of translating that emotion throughout the entirety of the album. Truly a solid instrumental album…peep it.
Purchase Gather Alone here
Follow TheWolvesDen here
TAPE 3 by NAHreally
NAHreally is an emcee out of Brooklyn…and goddamn can this dude flow. TAPE 3 is short and sweet, and also beautifully produced by G Mills, floridomi, and Flavors. I LOVED every track on here. Every single one. This dude embodies the Brooklyn style and it truly captures you and holds your attention. Fans of Pro Era will definitely dig this. Highly replayable…HIGHLY dope. Definitely make sure to check this project out.
Purchase TAPE 3 here
Follow NAHreally here
Somnos: An Exercise In Existential Ennui by YCG
YCG (a.k.a. Yung Clapped God) is an emcee from Lagos, Nigeria. His deep, thunderous voice carries a ton of weight on his latest project, Somnos: An Exercise In Existential Ennui. YCG discusses everything from his mental health, learning to be comfortable in his own artistry, his relationships with family, the codeine crisis in his home country, and his qualms with religion. The production is booming…matching the intensity of the Clapped God’s raps. “RIOT!” is an incredibly energetic track and most certainly blow your speakers out. Somnos is a dark, yet insightful album. Don’t let this one slip by you.
Purchase Somnos: An Exercise In Existential Ennui here
Follow YCG here
Hell if I Know by Imp
Imp is an emcee and producer who hails from Atlanta, GA. Hell if I Know is very atypical of most rap music coming out of Atlanta…and is one of the reasons why it stands out amongst all others. Imp is skilled on the mic and delivers quite a bit of socially progressive content. He also had his hand in on the production of a majority of the tracks. Hell if I Know feels like a descent into the inner-workings of Imp’s thoughts on society and the “system”. His lyrics are detailed and poignant, and it makes each track feel like a dissection of the topic he chooses. Imp is a surgically precise emcee, and you should definitely check out his project.
Purchase Hell if I Know here
Follow Imp here
“Ain’t nothing to be afraid of. You got goals. You got things you want. Move forward”—Cris Copastetik
I have a new tradition I do every year on New Year’s Eve where I write a list of everything I wish to purge from my body in hopes that the Universe will transmute that energy into a renewed magic ahead of the anticipated year. I write down my fears, my loses, my regrets, my shame. It is as cathartic as it much as it is utilitarian—I believe if we speak into the world what we want then we manifest it.
To say 2018 was a great year for rap music would be an understatement. In reality, I feel like most years are pretty decent music-wise as long as you have your ears in the right places. However, 2018 felt different. The underground scene in particular really showed out this year. Several artists dropped multiple quality albums this year, which honestly is a hard thing to do. Sometimes multiple projects can mean less effort, but with these artists this was certainly not the case. Roc Marciano dropped RR2: The Bitter Dose, Behold a Dark Horse, and KAOS with DJ Muggs, and each one held their own. ANKHLEJOHN and Vic Spencer are some other examples of rappers who dropped multiple quality albums in 2018.
I’ve never been super big on top tens, especially when the amount of music I listen to is increasing every year. It just doesn’t sum up the sheer talent and amount of quality emcees that exist within the genre. Truthfully, there’s just too much great music out there…and it should be acknowledged. Honestly, this tweet from the legendary journalist, Dart Adams, sums up how I feel about end of the year lists:
There are 52 weeks in a year. A top 5, 10, 20 or 25 list for an entire year is narrowcasting & if you think a list of 50 or longer is too much for reader’s attention spans given the sheer amount of excellent music released this year then you’re part of the fucking problem…
— Dart_Adams (@Dart_Adams) December 16, 2018
With that being said, I give you my top 50, along with a list of honorable mentions. Let’s get one thing straight though: I enjoyed EVERY album I’m about to discuss, regardless of where it is on the list. Out of the hundreds of albums I listened to this year, I was able to narrow it down to 109 albums that I enjoyed. I derived the top 50 and honorable mentions from there. Also remember…this is my OPINION…so don’t act like a bitch if you feel like your album isn’t ranked high enough…or ranked at all (sorry J. Cole fans…spoiler alert).
Although I listened to quite a bit of music this year, I still didn’t get to all the albums I wanted to listen to this year…my apologies to Chris Crack (Thanks Uncle Trill), Cavalier (Private Stock), and Tierra Whack (Whack World). There are others as well, and I apologize. I’ll probably fuck around and make an article about the albums I missed and drop it early in 2019…but for now, let’s just get to this fucking list.
AAAAGGGHH – The Doppelgangaz
A Smile Killed My Demons – Vic Spencer
ANKH NASTY – ANKHLEJOHN
Acrylic – Leikeli47
Akira On Acid – al.divino & Estee Nack
Apologies In Advance – Sylvan LaCue
Bad Decisions – Termanology
Being Woke Ain’t Fun – Chris Crack
budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies – Milo
Czarface Meets Metalface – Czarface & MF DOOM
Diamond Dust Shoes – $auce Heist & DirtyDiggs
Dogfood – AA Rashid
Drug Politix – Precyce Politix & D.R.U.G.S. Beats
Edgewood – Trouble & Mike Will Made It
Elcamino – Elcamino
Everybody Is Food 2: Eat What U Kill – Conway
Grimey Life – Big Twins
Hitler Wears Hermes 6 – Westside Gunn
In Celebration Of Us – Skyzoo
Just Gimme a Minute – Chris Crack
KAOS – Roc Marciano & DJ Muggs
KLAP GAWD – Tha God Fahim
Kommunity Service – $ha Hef
Kool 4 Thought – ToneyBoi & Camoflauge Monk
Magnetic Memory – Hprizm
Mi Vida Local – Atmosphere
Nostrum Grocers – Milo & ELUCID
POISON – Swizz Beatz
Punken – Maxo Kream
Pure Beauty – SHIRT
Son Of G Rap – 38 Spesh & Kool G Rap
TA13OO – Denzel Curry
The Freedom Papers – Verb Tec & Vanderslice
The Lost Tapes – Ghostface Killah & Big Ghost LTD
The Pain Collector – Vinnie Paz
The WAVO EP – Hus Kingpin
The Widow’s Son – Apathy
Two Headed Monster – Blueprint
Vacation In Hell – Flatbush Zombies
Weapon OX – Big Kahuna OG
1st Baptist – Pac Div
A really solid producer album with some great features. Nothing much more to it. But that’s the beauty of it…there doesn’t need to be.
A self-aware album about modern hysteria with a great sense of humor. Beats are unusual but pack a punch…and Jean Grae is still a fucking beast on the mic.
One of three albums from The Machine this year. “Slapbox” and the Pete Rock produced “Piper” are standouts in particular on this one.
A lot to unpack with this one. It’s not often you hear an album make several detailed references to the Atlantic Slave Trade. Tracks like “Jonylah Forever” will leave an impact on you for sure.
Yes, I grouped both together even though they’re produced by two different people (9th Wonder for Vol. 1 and Salaam Remi for Vol. 2)…and yes, Black Thought, after having no previous solo material, gave us 2 EPs this year. Do yourself a favor and go fucking listen to these projects if you haven’t yet. God-tier lyricism.
Perfect example of an underground gem. Sleep Sinatra brings socially conscious lyrics over well selected lo-fi, jazzy instrumentals. Never heard of Sleep prior to 2018…but I’m most certainly in tune now. Definitely check this one out.
I have a feeling this album is gonna grow a lot more on me as time passes by. In reality, this is a beautifully composed jazz album and, quite frankly what feels like a self-help book. Tom Scott’s storytelling is vivid. The jazz combined with the visceral lyrical content makes this a very unique album…PEEP IT.
Masta Ace doesn’t drop shitty albums…like ever. He continues to prove my point with this Marco Polo assisted project. Masta Ace’s clever wordplay and creative song topic ideas never get old.
FINALLY we got a fucking Knowledge The Pirate solo album. After hearing this guy so much on Roc Marciano projects I was looking forward to hearing him hold his own on a solo venture…FLINTLOCK doesn’t disappoint.
The most exciting emcee on Dreamville drops a quality follow up to his debut. There’s smooth joints, off-kilter joints, and just straight slappers. There’s something for everybody on here.
Mach-Hommy is a national treasure. He and Tha God Fahim go together like a bread and butter. Tons of quotables on here.
This album makes me wanna slap motherfuckers. Enough said.
One of four releases from Vic Spencer this year. Beats provided by Motif Alumni & Kas. A short, sweet, and to the point project from The King Of Living himself.
One of my favorite Pro Era representatives finally released a solo album. The city of Brooklyn shines through on this album. It feels incredibly sentimental…and I’m not even from Brooklyn. Great debut.
Royce’s most personal album to date, and arguably one of his best. It was really touching to hear Royce reflect like this. Songs like “Cocaine” and “Boblo Boat” hit me hard.
Phonte dropped a solo album AND reunited with the other members of Little Brother onstage for the first time in a decade in 2018. What a fucking year. This album is incredibly mature and Phonte proves that he is still an incredibly potent emcee.
I always end up finding myself relating heavily to Chris Orrick’s (formerly Red Pill) content. This hasn’t changed at all with Portraits. This album is heavy and very depressing, but it’s also an album that really helps me get through a bad day. Highly recommended for those who struggle with depression.
I didn’t listen to nearly as many instrumental projects as I wanted to this year, but goddamn am I glad I found the time to check this one out. Each beat transitions beautifully into the next. If you’re a fan of beat tapes you NEED to check this album out.
Apollo Brown albums get automatic listens from me. His catalog speaks for itself. His latest collab with Joell Ortiz is another strong addition to that catalog. Joell does a great job reflecting on this album while also saving some cuts for his signature, sharp tongued lyricism.
Trapo weaves his coated, introspective lyrics with some very jazzy, sometimes neo-soul, instrumentals, discussing his frustrations with the industry, being independent, and everyday life situations. Even though it’s just a prelude to his next solo album, it still manages to hold its own and makes for a solid project.
Yet another prelude to a future album…and yet I still come back to it. There’s some great lo-fi production on here, and it fits Mick’s soothing voice perfectly. Short and sweet.
My favorite Vic Spencer project that dropped this year. Dude had one hell of a 2018, but I feel like Duffle Of Gems his most cohesive and poignant project that came out. Fourteen tracks with no features. Grimy bars for days…gotta love it.
Stop fucking around and start paying attention to Mutant Academy out of Richmond, VA. Nothing but dope material. Backyard Boogie is an example of that material. It’s an incredibly funky record that garners replay value. I can’t wait to hear more from Fly Anakin in 2019.
This album is a fucking trip. It feels like I’m joining a cult. The production on this album is some of the most abstract shit I’ve heard all year. al.divino’s voice carries a lot of weight and is a big part of the reason this album works. His delivery mixed with mentions of Egyptian archaeological sites and sorcery are what really tie this album together.
Ever since I started listening to CRIMEAPPLE I’ve a had a serious urge to start taking Spanish classes. But on the real, this Jersey native can rap his fucking ass off. Just play “Palo Santo” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Big Ghost LTD takes control of the boards on this one. Aguardiente is one of three full length projects Big Ghost has produced this year. He paints a great landscape for CRIMEAPPLE to flex his lyrical muscles.
Roc Marciano dropped three albums this year. Let that sink in. He most certainly has a case for rap MVP of the year. Behold A Dark Horse was the second of the three to drop. Roc keeps the bar level high, and brings in some incredible guests along the way (Black Thought and Busta Rhymes to name a few).
I saw Estee Nack’s name all over the place in 2018. From his collab tapes with al.divino, to the countless times he was featured on someone else’s track, Estee really put on quite the show. Afrikan Folk Music From Out the Diaspora is a great showcase of his lyrical ability and braggadocios personality. The dope production and well selected features make this project worth returning to multiple times.
This album literally sounds like a dark alleyway. Conway dropped three albums this year but Blakk Tape was easily the most haunting out of the three. Most of the beats are handled by Griselda Records‘ in-house producer, Daringer, which would explain the cohesiveness of the album. Want dark, gritty street raps? Listen to Blakk Tape.
Yet again, Mick Jenkins has delivered us another solid, well thought out album. It was refreshing to hear Mick diverge from the topics of water and “the healing component”, and tackle something much more broader and vague. Pieces of a Man covers several different topics, ranging from consensual sex, today’s youth, and his place within in the music industry. It’s a solid listen from beginning to end.
Noname is one of the most engaging and poetic emcees we have today in rap music. Her quiet delivery is incredibly calming. On Room 25 she explores the exploitation of black stereotypes and delves deep into self reflection. It’s quite the project to unpack, and lyrics require some deciphering…but at the end of the day, Room 25 is a gorgeous, and vulnerable, album.
ANKHLEJOHN became one of my favorite emcees this year. His savage delivery separates him from most other rappers. The Yellow House is an album inspired by a fast food spot on Minnesota Ave in Washington DC. It’s a musical manifestation of ugly elegance. Great project.
Lynn, Massachusetts is where it’s at. Add Codenine and Paranom to the long list of current buzzing emcees and producers coming from the area, most associated with the Tragic Allies crew. Million Dollar Mink, much like the title itself, is incredibly luxurious. It feels like every bar is flex and all I can picture when I listen to this album are chandeliers and champagne. Gorgeous album.
Street Farmacyis legitimate musical heroin. The hard knocking, vile production from Farma Beats provide an appropriate canvas for Rome Streetz’ narcotic-twined bars. It’s a short but sweet listen that will satisfy the cravings of any starved fan of mafioso rap. Rome raps very raw, yet sounds smooth as ever as he dives into tales of his upbringing and street life.
This album sounds like a blaxploitation movie. SmooVth raps smoothly and callously on this project, with Giallo Point providing a cinematically crime influenced background. There’s also some incredible features on here.
Once I heard Earl started fucking around with Mach-Hommy, I knew exactly what kind of artistic direction he was heading in. Some Rap Songs is the product of Earl spending quite a bit of time with underground rap artists. As a result, he made an incredibly personal album and arguably his most sonically challenging yet.
This album is straight filth. These Futurewave beats are fucking fantastic and Daniel Son is a force to be reckoned with on the mic. It’s an album that can be somewhat glitchy, even electronic at times, yet is made within the same vein as a Mobb Deep project. Truly a unique album.
The sequel to his 2017 release, Rosebudd’s Revenge. The samples selected for this album are immaculate, and the way Roc spits his game over them is brilliant. It’s glorious pimp music, and it never gets old.
Black Milk still hasn’t lost his touch after all these years. In fact, FEVER might be one of his best releases ever, and considering the quality of his discography, that’s saying something. The production on this album is absolutely divine and takes you on a beautiful journey every time you put it on.
When people mention the Buffalo rap scene, names like Westside Gunn and Conway tend to be brought up. It’s time to start mentioning Elcamino within these convos. Walking On Water is a story of triumph, and includes some of the grittiest street raps released in 2018. Definitely give this project a look.
Arguably the most well composed album of 2018 (props to The Alchemist). Shit sounds like a movie. Each track blends right into the next. It’s a great example of how keeping simple can pay off in dividends when it comes to the final product. Everyone involved gave their A game. This is one hell of an album.
Established North Carolina producer and Jamla representative, Khrysis, and legendary Detroit emcee, Elzhi, linked up to bring us an album that truly embodies the meaning of chemistry. Khrysis and Elzhi mesh beautifully on Jericho Jackson. The traditional boom-bap, and sometimes funky, production provides Elzhi with tremendous flexibility. Thus, the final product is a rap album that covers a variety of topics while embodying the core principles of rap music.
Big Ghost LTD is an great example of a producer that values this idea of chemistry. His album with DC native, ANKHLEJOHN, is arguably the most finely tuned out of the three collaborative albums he’s curated this year. The lyrical content delivered in VAN GHOST is haunting. “The Yellow House” will forever be ingrained in my brain and is one of the most sinister and thunderous songs I’ve heard in a long time.
Although not labeled as a collaborative album, DAYTONA is certainly within the same vein as one, considering Kanye West produced the entirety of it. It’s the shortest album on my list, but it packs one hell of a punch. Pusha T’s brick raps never get old to me, and his rhymes on DAYTONA are nothing short of mafioso excellence.
We can’t talk about rap music in 2018 without bringing up Griselda Records. Westside Gunn continued to build on his already strong resume. This is a braggadocios, yet elegant, display of the culture, or to put it simply…FLY SHIT. The beats are excellent, the features are memorable, and Westside Gunn serves as an excellent host. Loved this album.
Benny finally dropped his first official album on the Griselda Records label. Tana Talk 3 is hard-bodied, technical display of skill and stories about moving weight. It righteously represents Buffalo, NY to the fullest and captures the essence of the city. Production is handled exclusively by Daringer and The Alchemist, allowing for peak cohesiveness. I can’t get this album out of my head.
Great albums evoke emotion. Something pretty much all of the albums on this list did for me. However, CARE FOR ME, may have taken me on the most visceral emotional journey out of all of them. Saba’s story-telling is captivating, and the way he unveils the story of his late friend and fellow emcee, John Walt (R.I.P.), is incredibly heartbreaking. It’s an incredibly beautiful album and a must listen for any fan of rap music.
Sometimes an album can move you just from the lyrical ability demonstrated on the tracks. This was the exact scenario for me when I listened to 9 Roses. Codenine is an incredibly underrated emcee. Both he, and the album’s producer, Mr. Rose, hail from Lynn, Massachusetts (if you haven’t figured out Lynn is worth paying attention to by now, you need to get your shit together). Codenine rhymes so smoothly on 9 Roses that it almost seems effortless. I got to this album later than most, but goddamn did it leave me floored.
The Dilated Peoples representative calmly destroyed every track on his latest album. He spit game, he was introspective, and he picked incredible beats. Weather Or Not was truly an album that embodied hip-hop. Knowing the pain that Evidence was going through making this album only makes it that more meaningful and significant. Fantastic album that lacks any bad tracks.
Armand Hammer (ELUCID & billy woods) seemed to pick up right where they left off with their 2017 release, ROME. Chaotic, cryptic, impoverished raps over wildly eclectic production. Paraffin immerses you immediately into it’s dark world and leaves you with chills down your spine. Multiple listenings will be required…but it’s fucking worth it. Christ, I loved this album.
Ka is easily one of the most gifted lyricists we have in rap music today. On Orpheus vs. The Sirens, he uses various aspects of Greek mythology as metaphors for street life, as well as himself and his rap career (Ka = Orpheus). The amount of quotables on this album is truly astounding. Every sentence and word means something…you feel privileged to hear every syllable. Animoss provides a profoundly cinematic background to Ka’s poems, making Orpheus vs. The Sirens, without a doubt, the best rap album of 2018 (in my opinion, of course).
It was a year of musical inundation and I’m grateful. I look at years as prosperous as 2018 and I can’t help but to also look back at those who aggrandize the 90’s as “the golden era of hip-hop”, as though our best years are already behind us. With every new generation more audacious, more lyrically nimble, more ferocious than the last, the future of hip-hop is brighter than its ever been. To that end, the staff writers and I gathered together to give you all a rundown of our top tens of 2018. We’ve listened to hundreds of hours of music to give you our most opinionated choices. Once you’ve read, I invite you to agree or disagree. Thank you all and Happy New Year.
Roc Marciano & Muggs “Kaos”
Fly Anakin & Ohbliv “Backyard Boogie
Roc Marciano – “RR2: The Bitter Dose”
Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz “Mona Lisa”
Evidence “Weather Or Not”
Kev Brown “Homework”
Royce Da 5’9 “The Book Of Ryan”
Phonte “No News Is Good News’
Tierra Whack “Whack World”
Honorable Mention: Rico Nasty “Nasty”, Kev Brown “Fill In The Blank”, Cardi B, “Invasion Of Privacy”
I don’t know how we did it but we made it. Another year has gone by and while the saturation of the hip-hop industry is higher than ever before, I still feel like quality music is being created. Evidence ended his weather themed albums with “Weather Or Not” and the West Coast artist hadn’t missed a beat and gave us his story in the process. Roc Marciano is my choice for hip-hop artist of the year, he dropped three incredible albums and “Kaos” was the pinnacle with DJ Muggs on all the beats. Another semi-consistent theme this year was one emcee & one producer albums. Fly Anakin & Ohbliv exploded with their album “Backyard Boogie” bringing all of Mutant Academy along for a hip, vintage and blunted journey of raw rap and raw beats, what more could you want? Speaking of which we finally got the return of the legend himself Phonte with “No News Is Good News”. “Charity Starts At Home” was a mature album and “No News Is Good News” is no different. Phonte’s way with words and ability to relay his experiences and life lessons to us is second to none. Tierra Whack & Marlowe were both projects that were left-field in terms of musical “norms” if you will but pushed the genre forward. “Whack World” is 15 songs in 15 minutes. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t packed with so much content you’ll have it on loop for the rest of your life. L’Orange has never had an orthodox sound, this made teaming up with Solemn Brigham a match in heaven as his flows, cadence, voice, and delivery are just as zany yet poignant as the man behind the beats. Why did you all sleep on Kev Brown this year? WHY?! “Homework” was such a creative way to put out an album and showcase the abilities of one of the world’s best talents. Kev Brown gives us instrumentals and smooth, sharp rhymes to study up. 2018, truth be told, ended up being better than I expected and who in the world knows what 2019 will bring.
Orpheus Vs. The Sirens – Ka & Animoss
Paraffin – Armand Hammer (billy woods & ELUCID)
Weather Or Not – Evidence
9 Roses – Codenine & Mr. Rose
CARE FOR ME – Saba
Tana Talk 3 – Benny
Supreme Blientele – Westside Gunn
DAYTONA – Pusha T
VAN GHOST – ANKHLEJOHN & Big Ghost LTD
Jericho Jackson – Elzhi & Khrysis
2018 was an incredible year for rap music, and truthfully, a top ten doesn’t even come close to summing up the sheer excellence that was released by emcees this year. Even my own personal top 50 list excludes albums I feel deserve to be acknowledged and recognized. These albums I’m about to mention are, in my opinion, excellent. Crafting my list was excruciating because I feel each of these albums is unique and distinct in their own way. All that aside, I was asked to give ten albums, so here are the top ten albums on my list that dropped in 2018. Established North Carolina producer and Jamla representative, Khrysis, and legendary Detroit emcee, Elzhi, linked up to bring us an album that truly embodies the meaning of chemistry. Khrysis and Elzhi mesh beautifully on Jericho Jackson. The traditional boom-bap and sometimes funky production provides Elzhi with tremendous flexibility. Thus, the final product is a rap album that covers a variety of topics while embodying the core principles of rap music. Collaborative albums between one emcee and one producer often end up being some of the best albums because of the cohesiveness. It’s an incredibly satisfying aspect to experience when listening to albums. That’s probably why half of the albums in my top ten are collab projects, or albums produced almost entirely by one producer. Big Ghost LTD is a great example of a producer that values this idea of chemistry. His album with DC native, ANKHLEJOHN, is arguably the most finely tuned out of the three collaborative albums he’s curated this year. The lyrical content delivered in VAN GHOST is haunting. The Yellow House will forever be ingrained in my brain and is one of the most sinister and thunderous songs I’ve heard in a long time. Although not labeled as a collaborative album, DAYTONA is certainly within the same vein as one, considering Kanye West produced the entirety of it. It’s the shortest album on my list, but it packs one hell of a punch. Pusha T’s “brick raps” never get old to me, and his rhymes on DAYTONA are nothing short of mafioso excellence. However, we can’t mention the term “mafioso” without bringing up Griselda Records. Griselda’s 2018 catalog was stand out, producing gems like Tana Talk 3 and Supreme Blientele. Westside Gunn continued to build on his already strong resume, while Benny dropped his first official album on the label. One is a braggadocious, yet elegant, display of the culture (Supreme Blientele), while the other is hard-bodied, technical display of skill and stories about moving weight (Tana Talk 3). Both righteously represent Buffalo, NY to the fullest and capture the essence of the city. Great albums evoke emotion. Something all of these albums did for me. However, CARE FOR ME may have taken me on the most visceral emotional journey out of all ten. Saba’s story-telling is captivating, and the way he unveils the story of his late friend and fellow emcee, John Walt (R.I.P.), is incredibly heartbreaking. Sometimes an album can move you just from the lyrical ability demonstrated on the tracks. This was the exact scenario for me when I listened to 9 Roses. Codenine is an incredibly underrated emcee. Both he, and the album’s producer, Mr. Rose, hail from Lynn, Massachusetts. Codenine rhymes on 9 Roses are effortless. I felt the same way about Evidence on Weather Or Not as well. The Dilated Peoples representative calmly destroyed every track on his latest album. He spits game, he was introspective, and he picked incredible beats. Weather Or Not was truly an album that embodied hip-hop. Paraffin, however, had a much different tone. Armand Hammer (ELUCID & billy woods) seemed to pick up right where they left off with their 2017 release, ROME. Chaotic, cryptic, impoverished raps over wildly eclectic production. One of only two albums this year that truly gave me chills after listening to it in its entirety; the other being Orpheus vs. The Sirens. Ka is easily one of the most gifted lyricists we have in rap music today. On Orpheus vs. The Sirens, he uses various aspects of Greek mythology as metaphors for street life, as well as himself and his rap career (Ka = Orpheus). The amount of quotables on this album is truly astounding. Every sentence and word means something and it’s quite beautiful to hear unfold. Animoss provides a profoundly cinematic background to Ka’s poems, making Orpheus vs. The Sirens, without a doubt, the best rap album of 2018.
Milky Way by Bas
Redemption by Jay Rock
TA1300 by Denzel Curry
Fetti by Curren$y
Hive Mind by The Internet
Championships by Meek Mill
Kids See Ghosts by Kids See Ghosts (Kanye West and Kid Cudi)
NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES by Metro Boomin
Dirty Computers by Janelle Monae
CARE FOR ME by Saba
For me, what makes my Top 10 is which albums I can repeat every time and not lose the feeling of getting hyped or enjoying every song. Looking back at where my head was at during our halfway point, only three albums remained and stuck the landing all the way to the end of the year. Metro Boomin might have gifted us with the best collection of songs I’ve heard all year with NAHWC, it’s great and everyone needs to have Space Cadet memorized. 2018 was an interesting one overall with artists having a comeback season of sorts like Meek Mill with Championships who tells a personal story now that he’s out of prison and with some stories that truly paint the picture of how he’s been feeling. Speaking of personal stories, Jay Rock delivered with Redemption as well. Denzel Curry, Bas, and Janelle Monae made an absolute fan out of me with their respective albums. Milky Way and Dirty Computes were both spots of fresh air this year, really liberating and feel good albums that are great from beginning to end. This year overall gave us a few surprises and follow-ups that delivered in their own right, it was a good year for the music I enjoy.
6lack – East Atlanta Love Letter
Black Thought – Streams Of Thought Vol. 2
Meek Mill – Championships
9th Wonder Presents Jamla Is The Squad II (2018)
El Camino – Walking On Water
J.I.D – Di Caprio 2
Masta Ace & Marco Polo – A Breukelen Story
Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele
Benny The Butcher- Tana Talk 3
Mick Jenkins – Pieces Of A Man
So many solid projects came out every month which got my playlist changing every minute. This list is not exhaustive but a very narrowed down look at some projects that blew my mind. It took me a while to get into 6lack’s East Atlanta Love Letter and I came out all the better for it. “Scripture” was the single that got me in and I never looked back since. We really need to talk about Black Thought’s Streams Of Thought Vol. 2, a project which I think was more cohesive than the first volume which came out earlier this year. I felt Salaam Remi’s stripped down beats had more punch and Black Thought also came with an extra lyrical fury. Meek Mill’s Championships can be said to be the 1st album from the man since his Drake debacle to fully draw me in. All I can say is, it is flames from start to finish and the beats are way better than his previous outings plus verses from Drake, Jigga definitely raised the project’s status as well. Jamla Is The Squad II is a no-brainer, we all knew what to expect and that J. Cole featured single “Sojourner” sure did a number on my brain. A lotta gems in here like the solo cuts from veterans such as Black Thought “Cojiba”, Busta’s “Jumpin” and Pharoahe Monche. Most may have slept on El Camino‘s Walking On Water but do get familiar with it when you can. It’s absolutely off the hinges. I will admit that I wasn’t convinced when J.I.D dropped DiCaprio 2, I really had to go back and listen thoroughly before it dawned on me on how dope this cat is. The legendary Masta Ace & Marco Polo’s A Breukelen Story may not win awards but it is a damn good project that follows the time-tested conceptual themes that Ace always delivered since inception. The linear storyline style never bores you and keeps the listener looking forward to the next track. Y’all know I had to put more Griselda on the list with Westside Gunn ‘s Supreme Blientele and Benny The Butcher‘s Tana Talk 3. The subject matter is still the same, the beats are grimy AF and the rhyming is raw like sushi. This is that type of hip-hop you listen to when you about to go down and dirty on the block with the homies. I just became a fan of Mick Jenkins when I checked out Pieces Of A Man. Previously I never went out of my way to peep his stuff, I hear a couple of songs here and there and I move on but this project is undeniably strong and cohesive from top to bottom.
Saba – Care for Me
J.I.D. – DiCaprio 2
Noname – Room 25
Mick Jenkins – Pieces of a Man
Kyle – Light of Mine
Mac Miller – Swimming
Vince Staples – FM!
Smino – NOIR
Logic – Young Sinatra IV
Travis Scott – Astroworld
2018 tested the different parts of me but thanks to some dope releases, I was able to stay in one piece. The music from hip-hop especially let me knew what was real. While I was finishing up that last semester of undergrad, I just needed words that held me together and allowed me to grasp what little sanity I had from that stressful time. Saba and Kyle helped with that first half of the year as soundtracks that were on the opposite end of up the spectrum. After a long conversation with my little brother about mortality and how fleeting it is, I needed something light and happy to balance out those vibes. Light of Mine let me look at my ups and downs in the face and let me smile. Care for Me was the dark tunnel I had to traverse through so I could cry. It’s the project that continues to stick with me. The project took a second listen to truly grasp what it was making me feel but once it hit, it continued to keep doing so. I find something new to think about with each listen. After college, Mac Miller helped me with the day I moved to Atlanta with some wonderfully sober music, encouraging me to go through the move by helping me stay afloat. Travis Scott gave me bangers for celebration after moving all my crap in my apartment. Probably the most well-produced album of the year. It was quiet for a minute when I was trying to process the rest of the releases of August until Noname dropped Room 25 a month later. Her flows of water quenched my thirst and automatically shot to the top of my lists. Logic finally gave me the album I wanted after listening to the first Young Sinatra back in high school. It was what I needed to get my back on board after his last project. Mick Jenkins came through with jazzy raps two days after my birthday for the best project of October. Another gem that I keep finding new content to draw from. November took me to the movies with releases from Smino and J.I.D. who painted pictures worthy of that $10 you pay at your local theater. DiCaprio 2 was the project that fulfilled the hype machine I made in my mind and has had a daily listen. I truly believe this proves that he got next. All these projects stayed at the top of my list even though it seemed like there was a project dropping each week and their impacts are going to last long into 2019.
I.S. Jones: Managing Editor
Care for me: Saba
Dirty Computer: Janelle Monae
Swimming: Mac Miller
Stay Dangerous: YG
The Book of Ryan: Royce Da 5’9”
Wack World: Tierra Whack
Invasion of Privacy: Cardi B
Room 25: Noname
As though every artist sought to best themselves and their adversaries, it seemed for every night and every other night, we were surprised with midnight releases, surprise releases, and sleeper hit after sleep hit. I think, all things considered, it was a generous year for women in hip-hop, although there is still much room for improvement. cupcakKe opens up my list with “Eden”. Sex-positive and rough, trading bar for bar, the Chicago rapper is a savage. With bold tracks such as a “Blackjack” and more sonically playful ones like “Prenup”, cupcakKe’s music is a reclamation of the femme body and the currency of the body. From hot bars on “Prenup”: “Thought NyQuil was up in a strap / ‘Cause one bullet gave that bitch a nap” and on “Blackjack”: “The dick like Ariana ponytail ‘cause I swear that shit was the longest” her hypersexuality isn’t a gimmick but her armor. SiR’s “November” was so integral to my own writing and to getting through another brutal New York winter. Lush, ethereal, romantic, and captivating in its West Coast tone, SiR weaves a tapestry of love that refuses to touch the ground or be grounded in earthly ideals. In “Something Foreign” he sings: “I’m moving through this movie like my life’s duty / is to live unruly you / shoulda never introduce me to the beauty in the darker side of heaven’s view” and those dark, piano trills floor into his listeners. My queer queen Janelle Monae really dazzled me this year with Dirty Computer, a derogatory term Monae coined, she names herself on her terms. Throughout hip-hop’s history, we’ve lost a lot of good ones too soon and Mac Miller was no exception. I don’t know if Miller meant for it to seem this way, but Swimming sounds like an album you write when you know you won’t be here for long: “My regrets look like texts I shouldn’t send / And I got neighbors, they’re more like strangers / we could be friends” he croons on “Come Back to Earth”. Miller hones in on a melancholic distance he feels from the outside world, but also the immediate prison of the mind. He’s swimming trying to make it back to shore but drowned holding his breath. One of the hardest albums of the year, YG’s Stay Dangerous. Power by grit, hard-bass heavy tracks, YG is purely rapping, which is a departure from the bombastic lyrical acrobatics we’re used to from his contemporaries. It was, as Nicholas Nichols, described it: “a hood odyssey”. The only album that went harder was none of than Royce Da 5’9” necessary The Book of Ryan, which is not only a modern cornerstone New York album, but it’s a punchy album, where are the Royce bests himself again and again. My top three were reserved for the projects I kept coming back to, the albums I felt were the most ambitious projects of 2018. At number three is Tierra Whack’s phenomenal Whack World, an album unlike anything I’ve ever seen—a series of one minute vignette, all of which clock in around a minute per track. Clocking in at just 15 minutes, the audiovisual album is bursting with her vivid, surreal imagination. Tierra Whack is vivacious, daring, strange, and that’s her best weapon—being herself. One album I was blown away and kept finding my way back to was Cardi B’s full-length album Invasion of Privacy, equal parts bravado, vulnerable, honest, Cardi B puts her insecurities at the forefront and pushes back against the world trying to rush in. While Cardi had two mixtapes prior, this album is nothing like what we’ve seen of her before. Each track is sonically rich and bold, stepping on the toes of her skeptics. Cardi B is the underdog’s underdog story and now she’s on top of the world. Coming in at number one is the one and only, Noname. I really thought no album could top Cardi’s, but Noname burst from her chrysalis to deliver this dreamy, jazz /neo-soul-influence, coming-of-age story which gave us effortless gems like: “My pussy teachin’ ninth-grade English / My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism”. Fully aware of her power, Noname blooms.
I.S. Jones is the Managing Editor of Dead End Hip Hop. She only writes for people who read. Her website is here
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I.S. Jones is a poet & music journalist split between New York & California. You can tweet at her here